SECTARIANISM has become infused with Scotland's constitutional debate, with assumptions made about political positions based on religion and cultural background, church and community leaders have claimed.
In a new report on ongoing efforts to tackle religious bigotry, it has been claimed that senior figures within the main Christian churches believe "a subtle form of sectarianism" has crept into the mainstream politics on the back of the Referendum.
The academic appointed by the Scottish Government to advise on the centuries-old problem has said that while there is no evidence for religious polarisation based on the independence issue, there was a potential for sectarianism and politics to be conflated at a localised level.
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Dr Duncan Morrow said that during evidence gathering for his report, while there had been much symbolic and practical work between the two main churches "at the same time the perception that this question could take on sectarian avenues remains".
Dr Morrow said: "The fear that the independence debate had taken on a sectarian dimension was expressed by a number of people, from within the churches and the wider community.
"All the political parties did not bring any element of sectarianism to their campaigns and were very keen not to do so. The potential exists that they (sectarianism and the constitutional issue) can feed each other at a local level and that fear is there.
"The churches suggested that debates in certain communities were flavoured by sectarianism. We found no evidence that that was reproduced.
"But it has been mentioned and there is a concern that the constitutional debate was at risk of having that element. It's why our research has to be evidence-based and its something to monitor."
But one source said: "It's true and been empirically measured that people from within the Catholic tradition were more inclined to vote Yes and those of a Church of Scotland background were more likely to be No voters. But that is not to say this motivates sectarian attitudes or perpetuating religious intolerance."
Ahead of the September 2014 referendum Scotland's pre-eminent historian Professor Sir Tom Devine had said that voters of an Irish Catholic background had in recent years moved away from their traditional support of Labour and were more likely to vote SNP and support independence.
Last week The Herald reported how one prominent figure within Labour accused the SNP of attempting to stir sectarianism after an MP wore ashes on her head at a Westminster committee meeting.
The clashes in Glasgow's George Square in the immediate aftermath of the referendum were linked with Loyalists while some on the fringes of the independence movement routinely connect No voters with groups such as the Orange Order.
A spokesman for the Catholic Church said: "There is no justification for religious intolerance in any circumstances and Scotland's practising Christians are last likely to exhibit it."